The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.
The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?
Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting "religions the way a dog attracts fleas." Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker ("His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth"). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don't burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat's sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: "It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I've made none the champion."
An award winner in Canada, Life of Pi, Yann Martel's second novel, should prove to be a breakout book in the U.S. At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, "My greatest wish--other than salvation--was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time." It's safe to say that the fabulous, fablelike Life of Pi is such a book. --Brad Thomas Parsons
Casey (USA: CA) (2007/12/19): An interesting tale of a boy's survival in a raft. Felt like I was reading the "Old Man and the Sea" by Hemingway. The whole book felt like a metaphor for the search for religion, but I don't think I understood the metaphor. A good fast read, I read most of it over the course of a 2 hour flight.
Carrie's Classics (USA: CO) (2008/07/03): "Life of Pi" is the story of Piscine Patel. Pi and his family are moving from India to Canada. However, on the way there, the boat they are traveling on sinks. Pi finds himself stranded in a lifeboat with an unusual mix of company.
I had a really hard time getting into "Life of Pi". After a week I was only a little over 50 pages in. So, to me, "Life of Pi" had a pretty slow start. In fact, I almost put it aside with no intention of finishing it. I had heard great things about it, so I pushed through. There were aspects of the story of course that I found fascinating, but it wasn't until I was half way through that I really got into the story and knew I would finish.
I really enjoyed the second half of the book. But, it was an effort for me to get there. I do recommend that you read "Life of Pi". I do think though that "Life of Pi" is geared more towards the young male readers than to 20 something female readers.
When you read "Life of Pi", you'll certainly learn a thing or two about survival.
Lothlorien (USA: CA) (2008/07/10): I don't agree with the reviewer who said this book was geared more towards male readers than female 20-something readers. I'm almost 20 and I found this book fascinating. So refreshingly different. I couldn't get out of the predictable-bad-fiction-rut for a time until I read this book. It is not a heavy book, somewhat a fast read, but well worth it. A story of survival, mystery, and even suspense. You keep wanting to know what really happened. A very different, yet good book. I recommend.
Andrea (USA: GA) (2008/07/26): I had to read Life of Pi for my AP Language class my junior year in high school so we had to study the metaphor, its underlying message, and its ending. We really got into all the details of it. It was really interesting and as far as required reading goes it is one of my favorites. I loved the book because you can interpret it a couple of different ways. I would highly recommend it.
aangee (Australia) (2008/08/03): To the person that had to study this book for school - help me, I didn't get it! It was a beautiful story, and I couldn't put it down, but after finishing it I really felt as though I missed the point. Still well worth the read, even though it might make you feel stupid.
Kelly K (USA: PA) (2008/11/18): What a profound book. I liked it very much and found myself unable to put it down.
Carlton Burkhart (USA: GA) (2009/02/25): I like the style of the author. Elegant but reader-friendly and highly informative on such a vast number of topics. It offers so many levels of understanding that one can easily pick and choose which floor to get off on. Needless to say, everything is best in this book.
Ed Hahn (USA: MT) (2009/03/05): An astounding story. I can't say I enjoyed every bit of it but I am in awe of the imaginative prowess of Yann Martel.
The interweaving of family, biology, religion, animal lore, survival tactics, and fantasy is unparalleled in any book I've ever read.
Would I recommend it to everyone? Absolutely not. I believe, though, that anyone who takes the time to appreciate the hidden and not so hidden philosophy in the book will profit immensely.
In this case it is the journey that truly matters and not the destination which is somewhat disappointing. Pi's and the author's willingness to provide an alternative story to what the reader has just spent hundreds of pages reading about left me a little flat. I keep thinking I'm missing some moral or lesson with this ending.
Nevertheless, it is just short of being a great classic and I may even be wrong about that.
Lastly, even though I was promised that I would believe in God after hearing Pi's story, I still carry a great deal of doubt and cynicism about any kind of anthropomorphic Supreme Being.